Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
> How do the Spurs stop this freight train that is OKC? Will being back in San Antonio do it?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Sure, why not? This has the smell of a home-cooking series (Paul George tribute, not an officiating salvo). I find the dueling forces — San Antonio’s experience and wrecking-machine offense through its first 15 postseason games vs. Oklahoma City’s athleticism and Serge Ibaka-stiffened defense — to be pulling in equal and opposite directions. I think coach Gregg Popovich and his crew can solve Serge (you didn’t really ask us for the coaching counter-move, did you?) but I’m a little leery of the mounting workload. By the time the Spurs had logged 17 games in last year’s playoffs, they already were up 2-1 in The Finals.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The way Pop says — by meeting OKC’s energy and aggression at both ends of the floor. Also by getting back to knocking down 3s.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: The Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich has his work cut out. He said it after Game 4, the Spurs have to be smarter against such great athletes, meaning they can’t make sloppy passes, they have to protect the ball on the dribble and prevent 21-0 margins in fastbreak points (the margin in Game 4). Long, fast athletic teams seem to be kryptonite for San Antonio. Think about this, eight of the Spurs’ 20 regular-season losses came to the Spurs and Rockets. With Serge Ibaka in the lineup, OKC has dumped San Antonio eight straight times and 12 out of 14. That’s no longer a small sample size. Good luck, Pop.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Being back home will help, but the dramatic turn in the series has not been about location. The Spurs need to play with better intensity, as surprising, maybe even shocking, as that is to say for such an experienced team deep in the postseason. The Thunder haven’t just taken the momentum. It looks like they have taken San Antonio’s heart. I don’t think it’s permanent, but it is a concern. Tony Parker has to respond to Russell Westbrook.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Playing at home will help, but they obviously can’t count on it as the solution. They need to find a way to start making shots in the paint again. The ball has to move and when it gets inside … pump fake! A little Basketball 101 will get the OKC shot-blockers in the air, especially if they’re rotating and recovering, allowing for easier looks inside or open shooters on the perimeter.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Short of a lower leg whip on Serge Ibaka (brutal, I know), I’m not sure what legal means they can take to actually slow the Thunder down. A simple change of venue, from the arena in Oklahoma City to the one in San Antonio, might not be enough. I don’t want to be a prisoner of the moment or anything, but the Thunder certainly seem to be on to something right now with the way they are breaking the Spurs down and ravaging them in all facets of the game. It makes that 4-0 regular season record seem much more relevant now that Ibaka is back in the lineup. And it’s also telling just how difficult it is for the Spurs’ best players (Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard in particular) to get going in their individual matchups. Danny Green and Manu Ginobili have to shoot lights out in Game 5 to get the Spurs back on the right side of mighty momentum in this series, or I fear we will see a remix of that 2012 playoff matchup between these two.